Smollett back at the helm after calling hoax “100% false”

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CHICAGO (AP) – Jussie Smollett will return to the witness stand on Tuesday during his trial in Chicago, where the former ‘Empire’ actor has called allegations he staged an anti-gay racist attack on himself of “100% false”.

Prosecutors will continue to cross-examine the 39-year-old, who appeared calm after several hours of testifying on Monday. He told jurors “there was no hoax” and that he was the victim of a hate crime in his downtown Chicago neighborhood.

Smollett, who faces charges of lying to Chicago police about the January 2019 attack, sought to refute the damaging testimony of two brothers last week. They said Smollett, who is gay and black, orchestrated the hoax to get publicity, giving them $ 100 for supplies and asking them to tie a noose around his neck and shout homophobic slurs. They also said Smollett gave them a check for $ 3,500 to take it.

Smollett said he wrote the check for $ 3,500 to Abimbola Osundairo for advice on nutrition and training. His lawyer asked him if he had paid Osundairo for some kind of hoax, Smollett replied: “Never”.

Lawyer Nenye Uche again asked if he was planning a hoax.

“No,” Smollett said, “there was no hoax.”

Smollett told jurors he had just returned from a trip and was walking home after buying a sandwich around 2 a.m. on January 29, 2019, when someone shouted a racist and homophobic remark . Smollett said he turned to face the person, who he said towered over him.

Standing in the Chicago courtroom, Smollett showed how he said the man walked quickly towards him, then pointed to his left temple to show where the man had hit him.

“I would like to think I landed a punch. But I don’t know if he landed, ”Smollett said. He said they fought on the ground for 30 seconds and saw a second assailant as this person fled.

Smollett said he assumed the person who attacked him was white because he used a racial slur and shouted “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again ”. The brothers, Abimbola and Olabingo Osundairo, who are black, said last week that Smollett asked them to shout “this is MAGA country” during the fake assault.

Smollett said he picked up his phone and told the person he spoke to that he “blew himself up”. He testified that he noticed he had a noose around his neck as he walked back to his apartment. Smollett said he removed the noose, but a friend who was in his apartment called the police and told them to put the noose back on so officers could see it. Smollett said he was upset the police were called because he never allegedly did.

“I am black in America. I don’t trust the police, ”Smollett said. “I am also a well-known figure at this time and I am an openly gay man.”

In cross-examination, Smollett said he refused to give Chicago Police his cell phone for their investigation because he wanted his privacy. Asked by Special Prosecutor Dan Webb if he feared the phone would display multiple calls to Abimbola Osundairo, Smollett said no.

Smollett also said that Osundairo told him he could get an herbal steroid that encourages weight loss, but that is illegal in the United States “in low doses” – or secretly – while he was on an upcoming trip to Nigeria.

Osundairo testified that Smollett texted him to speak “in a low voice” and that during the conversation, Smollett asked him to help organize the attack. Smollett said on Monday that the post referred to the illegal steroid.

When Webb asked about Osundairo’s testimony that Smollett had recruited him for a hoax, Smollett replied, “Completely false, 100% false. “

Defense lawyers suggested that the Osundairo brothers accused Smollett of setting up the hoax because they didn’t like him and then saw an opportunity to make some money. They suggested that after the brothers were questioned by police about the alleged attack, they asked Smollett $ 1 million each not to testify against him.

Smollett said he met Abimbola Osundairo in 2017 at a club, where he learned that Osundairo was also working on the “Empire” set. He said the two used drugs together and went to a public bath, where Smollett said they “kissed”. He said the two then used more drugs and participated in sex acts together. Osundairo said last week that he and Smollett had not had sex.

Smollett testified that he met Abimbola’s brother, Olabingo, but that they did not speak. He said Abimbola Osundairo gave the impression that they needed to “sneak” when they were together around his brother. Smollett said he never trusted Olabingo Osundairo.

Prosecutors say Smollett organized the attack because he was unhappy with the “Empire” studio’s response to the hate mail he received. The letter included a drawing of a man hanging in a noose, with a gun pointed at it, and the word “MAGA”.

Smollett, 39, is charged with six counts of disorderly conduct for doing what prosecutors have called a false police report on the alleged attack – one count for every time he made a report – to three different officers. The Class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said if Smollett is found guilty he will likely be placed on probation and ordered to do community service.

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Check out the full PA coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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